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Where To See Turtles In Pensacola – Complete Guide

If you’re looking for somewhere to see turtles in Pensacola then you’re in the right place.

Nothing can beat that amazing feeling of seeing a turtle up close and personal in their natural habitat! Why not try it for yourself?

This post will tell you all of the best places to see turtles in Pensacola including where you can see turtles in the ocean and where you can see baby turtles hatching.

Are There Sea Turtles in Pensacola?

Yes, there are lots of sea turtles present in Pensacola. In fact, Pensacola is one of the best places in the US to see turtles.

Every year, several different sea turtle species return to Pensacola beaches to lay their eggs including green, loggerhead, kemp’s ridley and leatherback turtles.

Around 45 days later, the eggs hatch and the baby turtles make their first ever run towards the ocean.

There are several different places in Pensacola where you can actually watch as dozens of baby turtles emerge from their nests and make their way to the shore. 

It’s truly a magical experience that’s for sure. Don’t worry, I’ll discuss where you can see this later in this post.

There is also a resident turtle population that lives in the waters surrounding Pensacola all year long.

For the best chance of seeing these turtles, I’d recommend booking onto this boat tour which cruises along the coastline of Pensacola in search of turtles and dolphins. 

Keep on the lookout for dolphins, turtles and stingrays as you go! The tour also includes a stop at a remote beach (only accessible by boat).

Best Places To See Turtles In Pensacola

where to see turtles in Pensacola - featured image

There are many places in Pensacola where you can see sea turtles and all of them are along the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

This is where the female turtles come to lay their eggs. After approximately 45 days, the babies hatch. 

The turtle nests can contain up to 150 eggs so that’s a lot of turtles which all start digging their way out of the sand and running towards the ocean, guided only by the moonlight.

Florida is actually the best place in the US to see turtles. In fact, about 90% of all sea turtle nesting in the US takes place in Florida so you have a great chance of seeing turtles here.

Below I’ve listed the best spots and locations where you can see turtles in Pensacola.

1. Pensacola Beach

The best place to see turtles in Pensacola is on Pensacola Beach which sits on Santa Rosa Island.

Every spring, female sea turtles arrive on the sand of Pensacola Beach at night and lay their eggs.

Whilst the nesting turtles can only be spotted at certain times of year, sea turtles are actually present all year round in Pensacola Beach. 

This resident turtle population can often be spotted around snorkel reefs, fishing piers and in the bays, usually rummaging for food or coming up for air.

For the best chance of seeing turtles, I’d recommend joining a boat tour like this one which will take you out into the bay to see turtles, dolphins and more.

You can also book a private boat tour just for you and your group if you prefer.

You are highly unlikely to see one of the nesting turtles during the day because they usually lay their eggs at night.

You do, however, have a very high chance of spotting turtles out in the bay during the daytime so join a boat tour if you really want to see turtles.

2. Perdido Key

Another great place where you can see turtles in Pensacola is on Perdido Key.

Perdido Key, which is located between Pensacola, Florida and Orange Beach, Alabama, sits on a narrow strip of white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters.

The turtles also come to the beaches on Perdido Key every year to lay their eggs. 

After a short incubation period, the baby turtles will dig their way out of the sand and make their first ever run towards the ocean.

If you are lucky enough to see this, I promise it will be something you never forget. 

The best place on Perdido Key to see the turtles is in the Perdido Key State Park which is a ​​protected area and a safe habitat for turtles and many other animals. 

For the most part, this usually takes place at night so you probably won’t spot any nesting turtles during the daytime. 

If you are planning on visiting the beach at night to see the turtles, please avoid using lights or flash photography as this will confuse the turtles and could prevent them from reaching the ocean.

If you do need light, use a red flashlight like this one as this doesn’t disorient the turtles.

It’s also not uncommon to see turtles swimming in the ocean off the beach during the day. 

Snorkelers exploring the seagrass beds and reefs will likely catch a glimpse of the turtles as they forage for food.

You can see some baby turtles hatching in the video below:

3. Navarre Beach

Another place where you can see turtles in Pensacola is on Navarre Beach which actually forms part of the Pensacola Beach area.

This small beach community features 12 miles of white sandy beaches making it an ideal spot for nesting turtles.

Navarre Beach is the place to be if you’re interested in turtle conservation because it’s home to a turtle conservation center.

All of the different species of turtle are actually endangered so it is so important that we do all we can to help their chances of survival.

Baby turtles face more challenges than ever including:

  • Eggs are often crushed by beach activities.
  • Birds take the eggs whilst looking for a meal.
  • Development on the beaches damage breeding grounds.
  • Ocean pollution.

It has also been reported that nearly 60% of turtle hatchlings become disorientated by artificial lights that cause them to wander away from the ocean.

This puts the baby turtles in huge danger as they risk becoming dehydrated, starving and being eaten by predators.

Some of these baby turtles struggle to make it to the ocean because of this and need extra help from volunteers. This is where the​​ Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center comes in.

By visiting this center, you can explore their range of fascinating educational exhibits and meet their famous resident, Sweet Pea.

Sweet Pea is a green sea turtle who was found tangled in a fishing line in Alabama in 2016. Her flippers were seriously injured and she also had a damaged shell.

The conservation center took her in and reared her back to good health but unfortunately she can’t be released back into the wild due to her injuries so lives permanently at the center in a 15,000 gallon saltwater pool.

Make sure you drop by to say hi.

Best Time Of Year To See Turtles In Pensacola

The best time to see turtles in Pensacola is between May and October.

Turtle nesting season in Pensacola starts in May. This is when female turtles begin coming to the beaches in Pensacola to lay their eggs.

The eggs start hatching between July and October. This is when the baby turtles will make their run towards the ocean. 

Peak turtle hatching usually takes place in August so this is the best month to visit if you want to see the hatchlings (make sure you read my turtle spotting tips later in the post).

These are the best months to visit Pensacola if you want to see baby turtles hatching, however if you just want to see turtles swimming in the ocean then you can actually see this at any time of year.

Many turtles live in the waters surrounding Pensacola all year round and you have a great chance of spotting them, especially if you head out into the bay on a boat tour.

About The Sea Turtles in Pensacola

Most of the baby sea turtles which hatch along Pensacola beaches are actually males. Why, you may ask?

Well, interestingly, the gender of a baby turtle is actually determined by the temperature of the nest.

Warmer temperatures tend to lead to females whereas cooler temperatures tend to lead to males.

Another interesting feature of sea turtles is that they always return to the exact same beach that they were born on to lay their eggs. Cool, right!?

As all of the turtles which come ashore to lay eggs are females, it’s actually a pretty big deal as very few female turtles are born on Pensacola beaches.

Male sea turtles actually spend the majority of their life at sea so most of the turtles which hatch and run into the ocean in Pensacola will never set foot on sand again.

The most common type of sea turtle found in Pensacola is the loggerhead sea turtle. This is also the most common type of turtle found in Florida as a whole.

Loggerhead turtles are named after their large armored head and huge jaws.

You can also find green, leatherback and kemp’s ridley turtles in Pensacola too.

Kemp’s ridley turtles are actually the rarest of all sea turtle species and, in contrast to other sea turtle species, lay their eggs during the daytime.

All the other turtle species actually lay their eggs at night.

Sea Turtle Spotting Tips 

First time spotting turtles?

To ensure the baby turtles remain safe, there’s a few key things to bear in mind when looking for them in Pensacola.

Remember that all of the different turtle species are endangered so it’s important that we do all we can to help their chances.

  • Don’t shine any bright lights or use flash photography. This will confuse the baby turtles who are trying to make their way to the ocean.
  • Use red lighting. If you do need light, use a red flashlight like this one. Red lighting is much less likely to attract the turtles and disorient them.
  • Don’t disturb the turtles. Don’t touch or pick up the turtles as they leave their nest. It is best to just sit back and watch them from a distance.
  • Fill in holes & knock down sand castles. After you are done on the beach make sure you fill in any large holes and knock down any obstacles like sand castles which could impede the path of the turtles.
  • Remove all items from the beach. Make sure you take your trash, sun beds, umbrellas, toys etc with you as this could serve as an obstacle to baby turtles.

Remember we need to give the turtles the best chance of survival possible. Practicing these easy tips can drastically increase the rate of survival for the turtles.

Fun Sea Turtle Facts

To get you prepared for your trip to Pensacola where you’ll hopefully see some beautiful sea turtles, here’s some fun turtle facts.

  • The correct word for a baby turtle is a ‘hatchling’.
  • A typical loggerhead sea turtle will be around 3 feet long and weigh around 250 pounds.
  • Sea turtles tend to build their nests for their eggs in the same location that they were born.
  • Mother turtles lay up to 100 eggs in each nest.
  • It is estimated that only 1 out of 1,000 hatchlings survives to be an adult so they need all the help they can get.
  • In their lifetime, female turtles lay thousands of eggs so at least a few will survive.
  • Sea turtles have been on Earth for more than 100 million years, even outliving the dinosaurs who became extinct 65 million years ago.
  • All species of sea turtles are either threatened or endangered.
  • The loggerhead turtles mostly eat crabs, whelks, and conchs.
  • Sea turtles never get to meet their babies as after laying their eggs, the mothers return to the ocean.
  • Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea.
  • The gender of a baby turtle is determined by the temperature of the nest – warmer temperatures tend to lead to females whereas cooler temperatures tend to lead to males.

Thanks for reading this post on where to see turtles in Pensacola. 

As one of the best locations in the whole of the United States to see turtles, you have a great chance of seeing turtles in Pensacola.

It truly is a magical and memorable experience if you happen to see the baby turtles making their first run towards the ocean and something you’ll never forget.

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